As mental health nurses, we are granted a seemingly disproportionate power and latitude to practise when compared to our colleagues in general nursing. This is due to a number of factors; firstly, that mental illness is difficult to define, in the eyes of the public it constitutes an intangible wrongness about an individual that cannot be measured or even seen clearly. Due to misrepresentation and scaremongering by the media, mental health services are often viewed as taking the role of protecting society from dangerous individuals. Similarly, the very real effects of the stigma associated with mental illness makes service users less likely to complain about their treatment by services. It seems clear from this that there is significant opportunity for abuse of the position of power that we find ourselves placed in as Mental Health Nurses. For the purposes of this assignment the author is required to state and defend their position on the ethical dimensions of a statement. The statement chosen is that “the needs of the community take precedence over the needs of the individual in the context of Mental Health Nursing”. The author will present their argument in support of this statement, taking into account any relevant counter-arguments. As a student mental health nurse, to do otherwise would seriously affect their ability to care for patients of involuntary status or receiving coercive treatment, and create a potentially irresolvable ethical dilemma.
Involuntary inpatient admission, and other forms of coercive treatment given to patients, is justified where the person is considered to be a risk to themselves or others. It is considered to be a paternalistic act of last resort where the person is seen as not possessing the competence to manage their own affairs, or where they present the possibility of harming others. Critics will argue that behaving in this matter undermines a persons’ autonomy. The problem with such highly principled statements is that they...
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